Friday, January 12, 2018

Strawberries? or Cardoons?

Quiltmakers love botanical motifs, even if they are not the best botanists. The applique design in this mid-19th century quilt is uncommon, but I have seen it before. The first time was in 2011, when Lynn Miller visited a local quilt study group meeting in Portland with one she found during her summer vacation in Washington.

Lynn Miller's quilt, found in Washington state in 2011

After seeing Lynn's quilt, I learned Barbara Brackman blogged about the motif in 2010 when Terry Clothier Thompson released a reproduction pattern called "Strawberry Patch" based on an antique quilt in Thompson's collection.

Barbara Brackman blogged about this motif in 2010

Brackman's blog included a reference to an image in Hall and Kretsinger's "The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America" Plate XXXIV, page 167. In the book, the quilt is called a "Strawberry Quilt" and the caption includes some provenance.

According to the book, the quilt was made in 1876 as a wedding gift for Mrs. Augusta Wehrman from her mother-in-law. The quilt I purchased was made approximately a quarter century earlier. I wonder if Mrs. Wehrman's mother-in-law saw the motif in an older quilt, replicated it and started calling it a strawberry because that's what it looked like to her. I also wonder if the maker actually intended it to represent a strawberry.
Applique quilt, c. 1850, United States
After asking around, I discovered I wasn't the only person who did not believe this motif represented a strawberry. Another quilt in my collection, dated 1868 and inscribed with the name Hannah J. Swin has strawberries, and they actually look like strawberries.

detail, strawberry applique from an 1868 quilt made by Hannah J. Swin, NJ
When I brought the 1850s applique quilt to the Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting for show & tell in December, I mentioned how I did not believe the motif was a strawberry. Someone in the audience thought it could be an artichoke. That idea got me thinking...and looking.

I believe it could be a cardoon. What is a cardoon? It is a type of thistle, cousin of the artichoke. Cardoons were commonly found in colonial American gardens, according to a 2009 article published by The Atlantic, "Cardoons: The Farm's Mystery Vegetable" by Anastatia Curley (The Atlantic, July 20, 2009). Click here to read the article.

Costa Vicentina 4
Cardoons in bloom. Photo: Lusitana/Wikimedia Commons
Curley offers one possible reason why the botanical applique motif in my quilt is such a mystery. 

"A little research reveals that while cardoons were a common sight in colonial Americans' vegetable gardens, for reasons no one seems able to explain they've fallen out of favor since then," said Curley. "They're still fairly common in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, but they are harder to find in the U.S."

While searching, I pulled up many photos of artichokes, thistles and cardoons. The mystery applique motifs resembled these plants much more than strawberries. It made sense when I thought more about the quilt. The large scale of the appliqué suggests a plant much larger than a strawberry.

So, do you think the applique motif is a strawberry, a cardoon or something else? Please feel free to comment in the comments section (below).

Friday, January 5, 2018

Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century

Another new book arrived yesterday, and my collection is once again represented. The book is called "Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century" (2017, C&T/Stash Books) by The Modern Quilt Guild (Riane Menardi, Alissa Haight Carlton and Heather Grant).

The book is about modern quiltmaking, but my quilt appears in the beginning, along with other quilts representing modern quiltmaking influences.

QuiltCon 2015, "Modern Materials: Quilts of the 1970s"
The vintage 1970s quilt came from an eBay seller in Georgia, and it was part of my special exhibit, "Modern Materials, Quilts of the 1970s" at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, Texas. It also appeared in QuiltCon Magazine. 

QuiltCon Magazine 2015
The hexagonal design called "Woven Pattern" was made some time in the middle to late 1970s. It was made with a variety of polyester double knit fabrics and tied with multicolored yarn.

It was a pleasure to see so many friends in the book, and an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence ascollectors Roderick Kiracofe and Marjorie Childress. Thank you to The Modern Quilt Guild for including me in the book. I hope everyone will enjoy it.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

"Why Wedges?"

The wedge-shaped patch was popularized in the Victorian period,
coinciding with the rise of the American garment industry.
"Why Wedges?" is the question Christina Cameli asks at the beginning of her new book, "Wedge Quilt Workshop" (2017 C&T/Stash Books). After impulsively buying a wedge ruler at the local quilt shop, Christina was drawn to the wonderful wedge shape and made her first wedge quilt. When she was writing her new book, she asked me about antique and vintage quilts with wedges.

MacMillan Family Quilt (detail), c. 1865, Kentucky
Although wedge shaped patches do turn up in earlier quilts, such as the 1860s MacMillan Family Quilt from Monroe County, Kentucky, the wedge-shaped patch was popularized in the Victorian period, coinciding with the rise of the American garment industry. When wedge-shaped cutaway scraps were available, quiltmakers used them. Around this time, fan motifs made of wedges appeared in crazy quilts, and in quilts with repeating fan blocks.

Fans, wools, unknown maker, Maine, c. 1900
Wedges appeared in block designs as well as improvisational patchwork. One of my favorite examples is a blue and white quilt top, formerly part of my collection and now in the collection of Marjorie Childress in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I'm a fan of fans...and wedges. Here are a few more favorites from my collection. All of them were made between the 1920s and 1970s.
c. 1920
c. 1920
c. 1920
c. 1940
c. 1950
c. 1960
c. 1960
c. 1960
c. 1960
c. 1970
c. 1970
c. 1970


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Coffee with Christina Cameli

The other day, I had coffee with Christina Cameli.

She had just received copies of her beautiful new book, "Wedge Quilt Workshop" (2017 C&T/ Stash Books), and she wanted me to have one. I'm always excited to see Christina's latest work, but this book also includes four quilts from my collection.

Many months ago -- so long ago I'd completely forgotten about it -- Christina asked if I had any photos of quilts with wedges, such as fans or Dresden Plates. She was interested in wedge quilts and wanted to look at antique and vintage examples to enhance and inform her work.

wool fans quilt found at Cabot Mill antique shop in Maine
I sent as many photos as I could find, gave her permission to use them and then proceeded to completely forget about it. It happens more often than you'd think, but there's a beauty in being forgetful about good deeds such as contributions to books. Each time a new title comes out, it's like a surprise.

Christina was at the December Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting, and she showed me photos of some pages on her phone. That was when I remembered some of my quilts would be part of her book, and of course I felt very honored. Two of the quilts appeared in my last book, "Modern Roots" -- also published by C&T/Stash Books.

The fan quilt was made around the turn of the century and came from an antique shop in Maine. The two that appeared in "Modern Roots" were from eBay sellers. The fourth quilt, a large wheel design with a blue background, came from one of my high school friends, Greg Rabinowitz, who found it in an estate sale in Florida.

Christina's modern quilts are vibrant, simply gorgeous, and two of them will be at the upcoming QuiltCon in Pasadena. I couldn't remember which ones, but two of my favorites in the book were Sea of Serenity and Sacred Heart. I think everyone will enjoy reading about these quilts. They're so much more than simply beautiful objects.

When I saw the book cover, I recalled another quilt from my collection, which is now part of the collection at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. It is an inscribed, red and white quilt with a wonderful, optical design made with wedge-shaped patches. It is the same design as the quilt on the cover. I regretted not thinking about it earlier, but for the sake of comparison, here it is.

It was lovely to sit and chat with Christina, and I'm thrilled for her and new book. We enjoyed coffee at Stumptown Coffee Roasters on Division with my girlfriend, Linda. The baristas were beautiful, and I asked them if they had to be supermodels to work there. They gave us lattes with hearts.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

What a year!

In 2017, I focused on what was important, and quilts were part of each and every day. Early in the year, I traveled to Hawaii on a whirlwind vintage collecting spree, in search of Hawaiian scrap quilts made of aloha shirts and muumuus.

Later in the year, I exhibited polyester quilts from the 1970s at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. It was a culminating experience following several years of focused collecting, and it was a big honor.

In the summer, I spent long days at the beach, but didn't get a lot of photos I could share in blog posts. I did, however, lay out on a polyester patchwork quilt almost every day.

The new year promises more of the same, even though fewer projects are planned. There is a new book on the way, I will be buying and selling quilts, and love is in the air. Thank you to all the readers and everyone who stopped by Wonkyworld in 2017. May 2018 bring you much joy, and may Wonkyworld and great quilts be a big part of it.


Friday, December 29, 2017

A Bookish Christmas

If you want to fast-track your education about old quilts, try picking up a book.
One of the lesser known facts about The Volckening Collection is it includes almost as many books as quilts.

Handling quilts in person is still my favorite way of learning about them, but the books fill in the gaps and answer questions. Choosing good books put me on an educational fast track.

Christmas is a good time to play catch up. I shared my Amazon wish list with Mom, and she selected several of the books I wanted most. My sister also got me a really interesting looking book about wool.

This year's selection of books received as Christmas gifts included some hard to find and out-of-print titles. I also received the long-awaited book of red and white quilts from the American Folk Art Museum in New York.

It was a bookish Christmas, just the kind I like. Thank you to my family for indulging me. I'm looking forward to diving in to these books.